Guilt, shame, and fear: I Let You Go

Apologies for the silence – the last few weeks have been busy. BUT! I’ve still managed to read something, namely Clare Mackintosh‘s debut novel, the thriller I Let You Go.

I got a free copy of the book and let’s face it, it’s not one I would’ve spontaneously bought for myself. Even though I don’t usually read commercial thrillers, a free book is a free book and mustn’t be frowned upon! Here was a perfect opportunity to read outside of the box and find out about a new writer, and even if I did end up hating it at least I would’ve only wasted my time.

Clare Mackintosh used to work as a police officer, so she’s writing about a world she’s very familiar with. I Let You Go (Sphere, 2014) begins with a car crash in which a young child running across the street is killed by a speeding car after his mother lets go of his hand. The car and the driver vanish without barely any trace, and are searched for by a team from Bristol police with Detective Inspector Ray Stevens at the helm, himself going through difficult times both at work and at home. A parallel storyline follows a young woman who appears to have left Bristol in great haste. Letting go of any connections to her past, she settles in a tiny old cottage by a secluded beach in Wales. The reader is – or at least I was – lead to believe that the woman is connected to the events that had taken place in Bristol and is possibly the child’s mother.

Turns out that the female protagonist is actually the person driving the car, and that the accident took place because of her abusive, narcissistic husband sat next to her.

Welsh coastal scenery (source:

Welsh coastal scenery (source:

I was positively surprised by Mackintosh’s book. Its language, although by no means Shakespearean, is quite readable and even enjoyable, telling the story from two different perspectives as well as two different tenses, the usual imperfect and the rarer present tense. The book is quite a page turner also manages to expertly avoid too many clichés – that is, until you reach almost exactly page 100 and the most predictable, boring thing happens in both of the storylines. You’ll have to read it yourself to find out what it is, but I wouldn’t be shocked if you, too, saw both events coming. Predictability really isn’t one of the qualities I appreciate in literature.

This predictability is somewhat balanced by Mackintosh’s clever idea of using the female driver as the other guilt-ridden protagonist. However, I feel it would’ve been even more interesting to have a protagonist who was genuinely guilty of causing the accident. As it is, he reader is directed to feel sympathy towards the driver because she, too, is a victim. At the end of the book Mackintosh explains that the novel was inspired by a real hit-and-run she’d been investigating as a police officer, and that she was interested in what the driver, who was never found, had felt after the accident. By looking more ambitiously at the theme of guilt and shame, I Let You Go would’ve been that much more interesting, even if it meant losing some of the plot twists.

I Let You Go reviews:

Loose Women
We Love This Book

photo-credit-smart-photography-2-720x300Clare Mackintosh spent twelve years in the police force, including time on CID, and as a public order commander. She left the police in 2011 to work as a freelance journalist and social media consultant, and now writes full time.


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